Germany’s Green party is growing in popularity after its victory in the European Parliament elections at the end of May with 20.5% of the vote. Several polls published in the following weeks show that the Greens have now forced the Christian Democrats (CDU) into second place, with the Green party pulling four points ahead. This is unprecedented; it’s the most popular the Greens have been since the party was founded, and marks a historic blow for the CDU (Angela Merkel’s party) which has been Germany’s traditional governing party.
The Green party, as the name would suggest, is intent on bringing environmental issues to the forefront of political debate. In the past, the party has been ridiculed for proposing initiatives such as weekly “veggie days” in nationwide canteens. Now, they’re in charge. How did we get here?
In the days leading up to the European elections, a video by Youtuber Rezo titled “The Destruction of the CDU” went viral. In the video Rezo attacks the CDU, accusing the party of lying, using propaganda against youth, committing war crimes, and censorship, among other things. With visual aids and a list of 247 references, the incendiary video became Germany’s most popular nonmusical clip after only six days, and at the time of writing this article the video has 14,854,701 views.
While this viral clip alone was probably not enough to swing the entire election, it points to a movement and sentiment among German youth that climate change and environmental concerns are not being prioritized by the government. It also highlights the growing debate over the role of the internet, fact checking, and social media in public discourse. In the chaotic aftermath, the CDU went so far as to film their own video response, but aborted at the last minute.
Another powerful movement has been the Fridays for Future, inspired by environmental activist Greta Thunberg, with youth all over Europe and worldwide striking for more climate protection. The climate crisis will inevitably affect young people the most, and yet as they grow up in a world that is increasingly uninhabitable their voices are being ignored. But what happens when children grow older? They vote.
The German turnout in the European elections was high at 61.4%. And now that the country has gone green, what happens next? As the Greens take control, the possibility that the next German chancellor is from the Green party – something previously unthinkable – is becoming more and more likely. There’s talk of a carbon tax which would reward companies that meet emissions targets and could be put into action as early as October or November. The party has already put forward a new policy paper taking on Germany’s fiscal regulations which restrict the 16 federal states from running budget deficits and keep the government’s structural deficit to 0.35% of GDP. In their paper, Green delegates Danyal Bayaz and Anja Hajduk argue that it’s not debt that younger generations are worried about, it’s a lack of functional infrastructure that will hold them back.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and find out what happens next.